Smoking and Selling your Home Main Photo

Smoking and Selling your Home

Posted: April 23, 2019 by Jay Ginsberg

A recent experience listing a home occupied by a smoker underlined the difficulty in selling a home occupied by an active smoker. More than half of the feedback sent by showing agents included some variation of the line: “Buyers put off by smell of cigarette smoke”. The property had to be reduced from the original listing price and I am convinced the smell of cigarettes was largely responsible.

According to® Smoking in a home can reduce that property’s resale value by up to 29 percent. Tobacco-specific nitrosamines and nitrous acid are two of the biggest threats that cling to walls, dust, and other surfaces within a house.  Worst of all, the effects just don't pass. In one study, researchers at San Diego State University measured third hand smoke pollutant levels in smokers' homes after they'd moved out. These pollutants remained even after the homes had been cleaned and vacant for two months. 

Getting rid of that smell isn’t easy but here are some steps you can take:

HVAC system

  • In a smoker's house, every part of the central air system has come into contact with smoke over the years. 

    Clean the air ducts. 
  • Change the filter on your HVAC unit. Normally, you would do this every few months. If you're trying to fight the smell of third hand smoke, step that up to every 30 to 45 days. 
  • Clean the evaporator coil. If nothing else fixes the problem, you may need to replace the system entirely. Of course, replacing your HVAC isn't cheap. Expect to spend anywhere from $6,000 to $18,000, depending on your home's size and the climate where you live.

Wash walls and ceilings

  •          Clean walls and ceiling with a 3:1 vinegar-water mixture.


  •          If washing doesn't eliminate the smell from walls and ceilings, then your next best bet is to repaint them all, first sealing in the smell with an odor-neutralizing primer like Kilz. Without the layer of primer, the smell will eventually seep back through the paint.

Clean floors and carpets

  •          Don’t sprinkle baking soda fragrance boxes on the carpet – it’s won’t work. Get your carpets professionally cleaned. Worst-case scenario, the carpets will have to be replaced.
  •        For wood or tile, a normal cleaning with the recommended cleaner should do the trick. Be sure to vacuum up all the dust from every nook and cranny.

Wash curtains and drapes

  •          Fabric tends to hold onto the smoke smell, so you'll probably need to clean all the window treatments. Depending on the fabric, some can be washed in the washing machine, while others have to be steam cleaned. You can rent a steamer, or hire a professional to take care of this for you. If cleaning doesn't completely get the smell out, they'll have to be replaced.

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